Are you ready for some footbaaaaaall? And are you ready to censor and censure people who say things you don’t want to hear?
If you’re an NFL fan and tuned into last Monday night’s game, you probably noticed a big difference in the opening. Hank Williams, Jr., the country artist who performed the Monday Night Football theme song for years, has been relieved of duty – seemingly because of his recent remarks comparing President Obama to Hitler.
While I disagree with Williams’ analogy, I respect and appreciate his candor – the same as I appreciate my partner saying whatever she wants (or feels the need) to say to me. Admittedly, I prefer for my ego to be taken into consideration when she presents this information. But between her concealing her feelings and telling me something that might hurt my ego, I will take her honest revelation(s) any day. There are many things she could say that would be tough to hear – perhaps about dissatisfaction with our relationship or the sex, a desire to see other people, or a physical inadequacy. These may all be tough pills to swallow. But imagine the result if she did not feel comfortable sharing. While I might feel pain, I would be glad she told me, and that we had a relationship that allowed candor.
Likewise, I’m glad that Williams said what he said – not only because it is supposedly his right to do so, but also because everyone being polite and keeping their politically-uncorrect ideas to themselves creates an atmosphere that stifles difficult, yet important, dialogue. It is possible that Williams is a racist – as many have called him. It is also possible that he simply despises the president’s policies and politics. I think it is safe to say that he despises something about Obama. But rather than punishing, labeling, or categorizing him, I want to talk to him. I want to know why he feels this way. His views are different from mine – a great place to start a conversation.
Unless we know what others think (about a romantic partner, a particular race or a political party), there is a strained platform for discussion, for trying to understand where people are coming from, and for serious attempts to better the situation. Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” I would add to her wisdom that if you judge people, you have no time left to understand them.
Williams is not the first public figure to lose a job (or fans) for failure to keep his mouth shut. After the Dixie Chicks criticized George W. Bush during his presidency, many country-music stations stopped playing their music. And remember Don Imus, the talk-show host who called a team of black, women basketball players “nappy-headed hoes”? No more show for him. I understand why the NFL dropped Williams, and why Imus’ station cancelled his show. These are money-making businesses, and if outraged audiences stop tuning in, the decision-makers have to cut their losses. But I would like to see a society in which the NFL never had to make that decision – where the public could discuss and even be angered by what Williams said, without calling for his head on a platter. The current social dynamic is one where individuals involved with million- or billion-dollar organizations cannot express their thoughts. We are telling the world that we do not want to know what these people think, or what anyone thinks, unless it’s nice and diplomatic.
I would applaud someone in the public eye who had the audacity to say, “I don’t like black people,” “I don’t like men,” or “I am homophobic.” Those inflammatory remarks would be great avenues into a larger discussion about the hidden biases we all have. Talk can be cheap. It can also be valuable.
Likewise, we can’t talk with our partners about what they don’t like about us, unless they’re comfortable revealing their feelings, perceptions or dissatisfaction. As a society and as couples, let’s reveal how messed up, biased and controversial we really are – even though we’ve previously been too “nice” or scared to speak our minds. But more importantly, let’s provide a safe venue in which others can do this. Otherwise, it is doubtful they will do so for us. When we are not our authentic selves, we compromise a valuable portal that is useable for becoming the Powerful People that we are capable of being.
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October 17, 2011 at 12:58 PM
I think your comment – “I think it is safe to say that he despises something about Obama.” – is not only inaccurate, but establishes a criteria that is nowhere to be found, no matter how hard you twist it, in Hank William’s comment.
Let me ask you; did you know Hitler personally to “despise” something about him? Or do you know his policies and methodologies that you “despise”?
The comment is solely aimed at obama’s policies and agenda relative to what Hitler created – it has nothing to do with any personal character trait.
I didn’t know Hiltler; I don’t know obama personally – but I certainly “despise” his policies, his agenda and his methodology. And when I compare what he’s doing, to the process Hitler took to turn Germany into what it became, I see similarities.
maybe not as severe; but errily similar.
Hank Williams is a victim of the fear generated by the left-wing, liberal media as to what the wrath they can bring on freedom of speech when it doesn’t fit their agenda!
I do agree with your assessment that he has a right to say it, and has a right not feel afraid to say it!
October 17, 2011 at 1:06 PM
I agree Frank, I would rather know the truth about how someone feels about me, and, how I am perceived in any given relationship. What I find most challenging, in just about any situation, are the masks of secrecy, and, the phoniness of political correctness. I hope I can always accept people where they are, rather than where they pretend to be, or, where I would like them. Yet, I realise, I need to accept people who are not comfortable with disclosure of themselves. Knowledge acquired from experience, is an ongoing process. Perhaps I’m just not on the path to being a President or Prime Minister:)
October 17, 2011 at 1:41 PM
Hank Williams is a victim of his own ignorance. If you think Obama’s policies are similair to Hitler, then you certainly don’t know your history facts and you need to do more research as does Hank Williams before you make such a statement. Free speech does not give us the right to speak hate filled thoughts. A person who hates like this is a slave to his own thoughts and will never know true freedom.
"Frenchie" McFarlane, The Comedy Pro Shop Agency
October 17, 2011 at 2:05 PM
Hey Frank!! #1 you make a lot of sense, and #2 you certainly “give” great blog, both intellectually and especially, grammatically! You must’ve been taught by the Jesuit Order to be so articulate and amazingly informative!
Keep up the **** work, my friend!!
PS: my lady says that although you do look a lot like NBA star, Ron Artest, you’re a lot “cooler”, and a lot cuter!!
October 17, 2011 at 10:37 PM
I just had a similar discussion with someone about a teacher that said some incredibly ignorant and hateful things about the kids at her school who had started a Gay Straight Alliance. My Facebook friend said “she has the right to express her opinions as long as she doesn’t say them at school”. I said “OK, agreed, but if she says such incredibly dumb things and she says them in a context in which they do become public, I also have the right to question whether she is fit to be a public employee, (who are not supposed to discriminate against those they serve).
I guess that’s the sticky part for me: people have every right to say, think and believe whatever drivel they want. But when it is a person in the public saying inflammatory, ignorant or plain hateful things, that’s a bit more complicated because I do believe there are legitimately EXTRA responsibilities for public speech. Like yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Even if the person really did believe that there was a fire (as you so kindly gave Mr Williams the benefit of the doubt, that gee maybe it is just Obama’s policies and not also about his skin color) , there are -or at least I think there should be- ramifications for how and in what context you say things.
October 18, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Freedom of speech? As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone’s widdle feelers… Or, as shown in this case, causes a possible loss of revenue… I would not suggest that people should be allowed to verbally bash each other, but how else can we initiate friendly debate and learn from each other? How else do we come to appreciate another person’s point of view? Would you agree that ‘friendly debate’ allows for a better understanding of opposing opinions?
October 18, 2011 at 2:57 PM
Way too many double standards in public life. And we wonder why so many politicians and managers (there are no leaders anymore) “speak with forked tongue”. A certain section of America’s population can use a certain word, while other sections of America’s population cannot. A real problem from this is the inability to speak the truth, but then again if I speak the truth not in love – I am a clanging cymbal or something like that.
One Man’s Opinion
October 19, 2011 at 2:55 PM
Sorry, I don’t agree. The comparison with one’s romantic partner isn’t helpful, as the intimacy of a personal relationship bears little resemblance to the public square, which is where Mr. Williams chose to make a very ignorant and inflammatory comment. I suspect he said it partially for effect, but his beliefs are probably very much in line with his statement as well. The problem with his comment is not just the bias and ignorance it represents, it’s the tone in which it was said. You are calling for discourse, discussion, and civil conversation, while Mr. Williams is more interested in throwing flames on a fire. I suspect that he has little or no desire to discuss his beliefs with you, because his mind is made up. It appears he would rather call people names than debate policy. I’m all for public conversation about difficult issues, but the ground rules for such a discussion must surely include respect for the integrity of the other person, by which standard his comment fails miserably. By the way, the decision to remove his song from Monday Night Football is a “marketplace” decision, pure and simple. Something I assume Mr. Williams well understands.
October 19, 2011 at 7:42 PM
IF THE SPHERICAL ORB SEEN in lew of a physical person represents much the same as a soap bubble reflection of the world around it, then each of us indeed lives in a world of his/her own and shares that reflection much like a window on the computer shares with others. What is noted may influence my world and yours while my conscious thoughts may be triggered by my emotions into my reality with/without influencing yours. Then the god or giver of direction is indeed a personal guide and protector assigned to me and a separate one for each of us at the soul level. Perhaps that is why we reflect onto ourselves the drama and problems we witness and not the joys of life.
October 22, 2011 at 2:16 PM
While an individual has the right to his or her opinion, the issue becomes more nuanced when a public figure exploits a forum to which others have no access to express that opinion. This is the foundation for the argument against SUPERPACs using millions provided by unknown businesses and individuals to voice opinions. The average citizen gets “shouted down” by the voice with the best access. Mr Williams should absolutely voice his opinion. But he should have no larger presence with his opinion that the individual sitting in the stands. Had every other person in the stands been given access to the microphone for the same amount of time and those opinions been aired just as his, there would have been no objection.
October 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM
I can’t believe I missed throwing my two cents into this debate, but better late than never. Anyway, this blog brings to mind one of my favorite quotes by Voltaire, who said “Though I disagree with what you say, I would defend to the death your right to say it.” Word junkie that I am, I’ve loved this quote ever since I first heard it back in high school, and I used it to make similar points like the one in your blog above, many times over. So I agree with you, let people say what they have to say, be they racists, stupid, whatever, and if they are willing to dialog then let the dialog begin. But like one of your other contributors suggests, often times these peoples minds are made up and there is no room for any real debate – just name calling and inflammatory statements. But that being said, people should realize that free speech is only free on the expression side of things. It doesn’t mean free from consequence or criticism and that is where most people go wrong. The comment above that describes Hank Williams as a victim of the liberal media – “Hank Williams is a victim of the fear generated by the left-wing, liberal media as to what the wrath they can bring on freedom of speech when it doesn’t fit their agenda!” is stupid and that person though free to say it, knew that when they put it up there that someone like me might call them an idiot for saying it! Williams too should have known that he might get fired for saying something so inflammatory about the President. Your Dixie Chicks example should have told him that, and so let’s not make him a victim and let’s not have people believe that freedom of speech means that its OK to say anything at any time because it’s not. Freedom of speech simply guarantees you that you won’t get shot or jailed for criticizing a head of state or government official in this country. But not having the decorum or tact to disagree with the President of the United States without resorting to a comparison to what most people would agree is one of the most despicable figures in human history is assinine (and I know how to spell asinine, but I thought it needed the extra “s”) Daniel S, really, you didn’t know Hitler, but you can see similarities in policies? You’re an idiot, just like the man you’re trying to defend. How many buildings were burned for Obama to get elected, how many political opponents have been jailed or killed for him to get his agenda pushed through? The fact that you would even try to legitimize such a ridiculous comparison shows me that you are as much of a racists as Hank Williams! And while most of the other folks on here are of the mindset that people like you should rebutted with reasoning on a higher level of discourse. I am of the mindset that in order to effectively deal with trash you eventually have to make an appearance at the city dump – so read a history book you ignorant racist asinine hole.
October 27, 2011 at 10:05 AM
People make inflammatory remarks every day, what gets me is when people give a pass to group A but scream bloody murder at group B. Part of speaking your mind is dealing with the consequences. As pointed out many famous people in the past have had their opinions cost them. What is concerning to me is that we appear to be in a culture where political and religious views are being forced into the closest.
October 27, 2011 at 10:07 AM
Strongly agree with you, Dustin. I am a practicing–dare I say “devout?”–Catholic & it seems that the ONLY religion allowed to be trashed nowadays is Catholicism. Yes, some bad men in “the church” did some horrible things, but so did LOTS of other men, all over, and in other “churches,” which are usually only mentioned as an aside. Oh, and the media sure likes to leave out all the good work so many, many Catholic agencies do…for the good of any/all (especially the poor, traumatized & under-served)! Och, double-standards!
October 27, 2011 at 2:37 PM
True that with the various priest scandals people tend to forget that the same religion also gave the world Mother Teresa.
Francy De T
October 27, 2011 at 2:37 PM
WOOOHH great comments I agree I am also a Catholic and i have to defend my believes all the time. What people do not see is that is PEOPLE that do wrong things, no the church. Another things I am looking is politics, they think that by talking trash about the other is GOOD POLITICS. !!!!! WRONG.
October 30, 2011 at 3:56 PM
Let’s not be silly.
Hitler was one of the most evil people to ever walk the earth.
I think debate of public policies based on fact, derived from research presenting divergent points of view, is the best way to address problems in a free society. I happen to be a capitalist, based on years in college as a Political Science major, and extensive free reading.
What is not helpful in the current economic situation is for people to use inflammatory references to stir up feelings that cannot possibly clarify a solution. I strongly believe in freedom of speech and lack of censorship. I allowed my son to listen to age appropriate rap music and other music in order to talk through the many issues presented in the context of the artist’s opinion. Bob Dylan said what he wanted to say, but then again he was a poet.
I don’t dislike Hank Williams, Jr. I find him predictable and one dimensional.
I still would like to see a song expressing H.W.’s opinion. That is what he does for a living, anyway. 🙂